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Is there any difference between the words "drink" and "beverage"? The internet is not consistent enough about the definitions. I found all of the following (list not exhaustive):

  • they are the same;
  • "beverage" does NOT refer to water, but to anything else safe for drinking;
  • "beverage" is made to be sold.

Side question: Can I order a "beverage"? I never encountered a question like: "What beverage would you like?"

I already know that ordering "drinks" is a common thing.

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  • They are the same, but 'beverage' is more formal (it comes from the Latin via this route: : Latin bibere ‘to drink’ -> Old French bevrage -> Middle English beverage. You can say 'Can I order a beverage' perhaps in a café, but many people would think that was oddly formal and kind of bookish. Water can definitely be called a beverage. Jun 28, 2023 at 12:04
  • As drink generally conveys a sense of pleasure, "beverage" will be used in others cases, e.g. After surgery, no food or beverage are allowed in the recovery room.
    – Graffito
    Jun 28, 2023 at 14:59
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    @Graffito - are you sure about that? As a general rule? Jun 28, 2023 at 16:18
  • I've had this conversation many times with a room full of native speakers. I'm surprised you didn't also come across opinions on whether a "beverage" must, can, or cannot contain alcohol. You're not likely to get a definitive answer here.
    – gotube
    Jun 28, 2023 at 17:30
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    @virolino You've misunderstood. I meant to tell you that even native speakers don't agree on precisely what "beverage" and "drink" mean, so I'm not surprised dictionaries you've checked don't give clear answers.
    – gotube
    Jun 30, 2023 at 0:04

1 Answer 1

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"drink" and "beverage" are approximately the same if you consider the meaning of "drink" which matches up with "beverage". However there are nuances.

  • The word "drink" has Germanic origins and happens to be much more common in everyday usage than "beverage", of French origins. That's a pattern in English, where the French word sounds more literary or advanced, but basic nouns and verbs (cook, eat, drink, walk, run, sleep) are Old English.

  • "Have a drink", in the context of bar or pub, would strongly imply alcohol. "Have a beverage" * would not be idiomatic. And might or might not imply alcohol.

  • "Take a drink", when any liquid is present, means to imbibe. "Take a beverage" * would not be correct.

  • Does "beverage" refer to water? It usually excludes water, and implies something other than water, but not in a strict way. If someone asked if you'd like a beverage, water would still be an acceptable answer.

  • Are beverages made to be sold? That's not their definition, no. If a beverage is "a drink, usually other than water" including coffee, tea, juice, etc. then coincidentally in modern society those are all consumer products made to be sold.

  • Can I order a "beverage"? Yes. It might sound overly formal.

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  • "would not be idiomatic": it would be idiomatic if the speaker is being humorous or otherwise affecting an air of mock formality, etc. Also, it seems as though "have a drink" implies alcohol in most contexts; "have something to drink" is more neutral. This is at least true in the northeastern US, where I grew up. When I moved to Europe I needed to adjust a bit to people (non-native speakers of English) ordering coffee or a soft drink after saying "let's have a drink."
    – phoog
    Jul 1, 2023 at 16:50
  • Also I would note that "take a drink" is typically employing a different sense of "drink" that isn't synonymous with "beverage" because it refers to the act of drinking, similar to "take a sip" and analogous to "take a bite."
    – phoog
    Jul 1, 2023 at 17:12

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